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Trade defence | Brussels, 29 April 2013

Latest Trade Defence Report highlights Commission successes but shows trading partners continuing to launch new cases

The European Commission’s latest annual report on trade defence actions taken by non-EU countries against EU exports shows the Commission successfully defending European firms in the face of a persistently high number of cases brought against the EU. 2012 saw the total number of cases levelling off compared to the previous two years, but there was a surge in new cases towards the year end.

The report shows the EU's trading partners having a total of 138 cases against European exports, eight less than the year before, but still 15 more than in 2010. The number of new measures imposed also fell from 36 in 2011 to 20 in 2012. Last year, the Commission stepped up its monitoring of trade defence actions taken by non-EU countries in response to the growing complexity of cases and the appearance of new users of trade defence instruments. 2012 saw India, with 21 cases against the EU, as the biggest user of trade defence against EU or its Member States, overtaking the US, the historical leader, with 18. China came third with 16 cases, but it was Indonesia that launched the most new investigations.

The report, the tenth of its kind submitted by the Commission to the European Parliament, also sets out what the Commission has done to safeguard the rights of EU exporters and the proper use of the trade defence instruments. World Trade Organization (WTO) rules allow its members to use trade defence instruments, but if not properly applied they turn into protectionist tools. The Commission’s monitoring actions range from technical interventions in on-going investigations to – as a last resort – WTO dispute settlement proceedings when the issues are important and no other solution can be found.

In many cases, the Commission achieved positive results in 2012. One of the most significant was the conclusion of the WTO dispute settlement against China on X-ray scanners, a case which could tackle the unacceptable practice of retaliation. Given the systemic nature of the issues the Commission challenged, the decision will have a direct impact on other cases.

Just as important was the agreement by the EU and US on a road map in the so-called US-zeroing case. The EU has challenged the practice of 'zeroing', where non-dumped transactions are disregarded in the calculation of the dumping margin, often resulting in artificially inflated duties.

The Commission’s action, sometimes together with other WTO Members, strongly contributed to the ending of several investigations without measures being imposed (e.g. Brazil – wine; Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan – graphite electrodes; Israel – food mixers).

Nevertheless, several issues, mainly of a systemic nature, still persist. Despite the Commission intervening at various levels, some basic WTO rules are not being applied strictly enough with the result that access to certain markets can be unduly restricted for EU exporters. The unacceptable retaliatory nature of some Chinese investigations continues to be a cause for concern. The high number of newly initiated safeguard cases is also worrying: investigations are often initiated on a weak basis, but even the launch of an investigation – even if not followed by measures – can have a negative impact on normal trade flows.

The Commission is committed to continuing its policy of firm action to ensure that high standards in trade defence investigations are respected. Coordinated efforts involving EU Member States, EU industries and EU delegations have significantly increased the chances of success and will be continued in the future.

Link to the Guide for Exporters

Link to the 10th Annual Report

Link to the Annexes to the report